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mount-weather-aerialThe Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center is a civilian command facility in the U.S. state of Virginia, used as the center of operations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Also known as the High Point Special Facility (HPSF), its preferred designation since 1991.

The facility is a major relocation site for the highest level of civilian and military officials in case of national disaster, playing a major role in U.S. continuity of government (per the Continuity of Operations Plan).

Mount Weather is the location of a control station for the FEMA National Radio System (FNARS), a high frequency radio system connecting most federal public safety agencies and U.S. military with most of the states. FNARS allows the president to access the Emergency Alert System.

FEMA National Radio SystemThe site was brought into the public eye by The Washington Post, when the government facility was mentioned while reporting on the December 1, 1974, crash into Mount Weather of TWA Flight 514, a Boeing 727 jetliner.

Location

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, access to the operations center is available via Virginia State Route 601 (also called Blueridge Mountain Road) in Bluemont, Virginia. The facility is located near Berryville, 48 miles from Washington, D.C.

The site was originally opened as a weather station in the late 1800s.  It was used as a Civilian Public Service facility (Camp # 114) during World War II. At that time there were just two permanent buildings on the site: the administration/dormitory building, and the laboratory. Those buildings still stand, supplemented by many more modern buildings.

Xfiles-Weather copy_thumb[1]The underground facility within Mount Weather, designated “Area B”, was completed in 1959. FEMA established training facilities on the mountain’s surface (“Area A”) in 1979.

The above-ground portion of the FEMA complex (Area A) is at least 434 acres. This measurement includes a training area of unspecified size.  Area B, the underground component, contains 600,000 square feet (56,000 m2).

Evacuations

According to a letter to the editor of The Washington Post, after the September 11 attacks, most of the congressional leadership was evacuated to Mount Weather by helicopter.

Between 1979 and 1981, the National Gallery of Art developed a program to transport valuable paintings in its collection to Mount Weather via helicopter. The success of the relocation would depend upon how far in advance warning of an attack was received.

Because many of its activities are deemed to be Top Secret, not much is known about the day-to-day working at Mt. Weather, and even less is known about the plans that would unfold in case of a dire emergency.

Mt weatherThat is why a recent presolicitation notice issued by FEMA on July 8 of last year sheds a bit of welcome light on one aspect of the emergency operations center’s day-to-day functioning. FEMA’s notice indicates that it is planning to issue a contract to a company that can provide a variety of medical services at Mt. Weather – in both normal times and “during emergencies where immediate transfer of patients is inhibited, medical staff and patients may be required to stay on-site.”

The notice explains that Mt. Weather is open 24 hours a day, every day, throughout the year. “Activities on-site include facility operations, data centers, communication hubs, and classified programs,” FEMA noted. “Operations are designed to continue without significant support from external entities.”

The presolicitation document points out that there are typically about 1,400 full-time personnel on site who might require medical attention. “However, the on-site population can expand significantly at times.” FEMA and Mt. Weather do not make it a habit to discuss various scenarios that might unfold in case of a major disaster or emergency.

Much of the work at Mt. Weather is conducted in secret. “A Top Secret security facility clearance is required of the contractor and any subcontractors, and individual Top Secret clearances are required for all staff, both permanent and backup,” insists FEMA. A part of the medical work that would be performed under this contract would take place in a classified area that that requires a Top Secret security clearance to access.

bioterrorMedical Services Support at the Mt. Weather Emergency Operations Center

Solicitation Number:HSFE5013R0026Agency: Department of Homeland Security
Office: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Contract Award Dollar Amount:
Not To Exceed $3,936,846.28

See also

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